Blazing Saddles in Apple Valley

They rode their blazing saddles
They were the lantern rouge
They dabbed with Lantisceptic
When parts were looking blue

They rode their pace and they pulled their friends
They rode the night into day

They were a flaming spandex
torch for 600k!

Rando Version of "Blazing Saddles Theme Song"
For the real thing:

This ride was all about Bob.

After watching him painfully abdicate last week in Wisconsin, I have added to my list of things never to do for a 600k.   The master list now reads.

1.  Try out new critical gear on the ride (like a brand new saddle or shorts)
2.  Outride your headlight on a nightime descent
3.  Try new foods that you are not certain you can digest
4.  Look at your ass during the ride because it won't show you anything good.  <= New

I was happy that Bob declared himself fit to ride for the AV600k and drove to the Twin Cities from Madison just to do this ride.  How could I not go?  He totally hauled me through the Rochester 600k last year.  Time to cheer on a fellow rider.

The weather forecast for this ride was about as perfect as you could possibly hope for which was good because last weeks 600k made me feel like a roasted chicken.  50-70 degree temps and tailwinds on BOTH days.  It was like the stars were aligning.  Of course, I had planned on doing the 400k, but switched at the last moment.  This had some consequences for others which I will always wonder about.

We started out on a cloudy, somewhat chilly morning with dry pavement and a nice tailwind already coming from the northwest.  I saw Renee, Ed and my pal Gary at the start, all of them were doing the 400k.  For this ride, I had a brand new reflective vest from Mavic.  It satisfies the EN1150 standard necessary for riding in France and holy cow, it's like wearing a flourescent orange billboard.  It's also a very nice wind vest, has a good pocket and good ventilation.  Well worth it if one is planning a trip to PBP.

Road Pixie left, Bob right - which one looks like Gene Wilder?
 I was happy to be riding, but having just finished a 600k only 6 days previously, I can't say I didn't have a little trepidation.  I've never done two such large events so close before.  It was a test to get a little closer to what PBP might be like.   But I really wanted to see Bob finish and be set to go to Paris himself.

There were actually 3 rides, 300k, 400k, and 600k going on at the same time.  This led to some confusion after a bunch of riders on the 400k accidentally followed the 600k riders, who had a different route to Cannon Falls.  Bob and I were almost immediately at the back of the 600k pack, going about 17-19 mph.  It reminded me of the previous weekend, minus the heat.

We had a lovely ride to Cannon Falls with the wind giving us a nice push.  Several were already there and we said hi to a couple on our short stop.  It was slowly warming, but we left all our clothes on just the same.  CR25 had just been repaved and what a difference it makes!  That section is full of long, steep rollers and its fun to just fly up and down them without fear of cracks or potholes.  The sky began to clear at this point and as we approached and passed Goodhue the sun started peaking out.  Even though we haven't had much rain, everything was very green and the corn was about 6 inches tall so the fields were mossy looking.

We made it to Lake City easily and did another quick stop.  Jim Joy was leaving as we came, a reoccurring theme on the entire ride.  A couple of other riders were still at Lake City and we ate a few things and quickly were back on the road.  Lake City to Plainview is probably the hilliest part of the entire route, but it went very well.  Bob and I pace well together and we climb at almost exactly the same speed.  We're both spinners and prefer to recover while climbing (sounds nuts, but it really works).   We got to Plainview (100 miles) a little before 1:00 pm which is a decent pace in my book.  There, we stopped for sandwiches and ran into Dan from Iowa who turned out to be on his first 600k.

The Estrogen Advantage?
Just outside Plainview, Dan started talking about my Estrogen Advantage.  "It gives you the ability to focus on  greater goal than beating the guy next to you".  Hmm, though I haven't noticed any estrogen doping at the Tour de France, I'm sure there is a market here.  While Dan proceeded with some real foot-in-mouth moments, I gathered my own personal list of estrogen advantages in randonneuring:
  1. Cramps?  Been there done that every month for 30 years, bring them on baby!
  2. Line at the control restroom? Nah.
  3. Increased resistence to early hot-dog pacelines.
  4. The most important thing in the shorts are the legs, no distractions.
Just my opinion here. Randonneuses of the world, feel free to speak up here.

Moving on...
We hit 200k in less than 9 hours at an average speed of about 15 mph.  There was a very gentle tailwind, but noticeable enough to make me happy it was not in my face.  In fact, the tailwind slowly rotated for the next 24 hours and remained a tailwind for the entire ride.  After the Titanic 400k, storming in Louisville, and extreme heat in Wisconsin, the weather gods paid up their debts.  It was just a gorgeous, sunny 75 degree afternoon when riding is nothing but pleasurable.  We chatted about PBP, riding, bicycles, all the important things for randonneurs.

At Rushford, we pulled into the Windswept Inn parking area to a somewhat depleted food table.  Bill, one of our randonneurs on the injured list, was running it and was amazed at how fast the food was going.  We grabbed a sandwich and took off quickly for La Crescent.  It's very tempting to waste lots of time at the Windswept, but we resisted.  Dan pulled up a few minutes after us and the 3 of us left together.  The next 12 miles are along the Root River Trail and are generally flat and very scenic.  Bob really pushed through here, it isn't often one rides a trail at 18 mph.  Dan had a hard time keeping up at times, but we emerged at Houston in only about 40 minutes unscathed.  At this point, Dan was recovered and went ahead - the testosterone effect no doubt.

At La Crescent, I had to eat more and we rested about 20 minutes before starting back.  Jeff, who we had lost track of in Cannon Falls, finally showed up having had to back track 9 miles to find his brevet card (behind the toilet at the control).  "I finally caught you" he was elated.  Then he left us in the dust.  Riding alone for that long had the T factor really pumped up - I think he pretty much ignored everyone else for the rest of the ride and finished in about 29 hours.  Cheers! 

Our ride back was really a highlight, at dusk there were lots of animals out and on the trail a doe crashed across about 30 ft in front of us.  Riding into the sunset in a big, green valley with a peach sky and a rising half moon is something to see.

We came back to the control to about 8 people looking really tired and wiped out.  We felt really good and Bob had a shower.  The Windswept had little space this time and with 6 people crammed into 1 tiny room trying to stay warm in the dropping temps, I wound up stripping in front of all of them so that I could have a new set of clothes (I did warn them first).  I'm certain my goddess like form was an inspiration for miles.  They left shortly aftewards and I had a quick 45 minute nap - it was down in the 50s and ditch napping would have been unpleasent.  Bob, who doesn't sleep, waited for me watching countdowns on the weather channel (top tornadoes, top hurricanes, top floods, etc).  We left at midnight with about 300k to go.

The Night Ride
Both of us have a real love for night riding and this was a great night for it.  Temps were very cool - in the 50s - but we had clothing and the climb out of the Root River Valley warmed us up.  The fires in Arizona made the moon look pink at times and the stars were lovely.  The 38 miles section to Eyota was a real treat.  At about 25 miles, was a 24 hour truck stop along I-90 and we made a 5 minute stop to use the facilities and buy water.  We also picked up a sleepy looking rider, Richard, who had stopped to warm up.  The 3 of us would ride together for the next 50 miles or so.

My GPS was an asset riding in the dark and we easily made Eyota for some food and coffee.  At 3:00 am, convenience stores are much more laid back.  The following stretch to Zumbrota is 43 miles, so filling up is a good idea.  I even had some donuts (I normally loathe them).

At sunrise, Richard and I were weaving and at the top of a hill we found a warm spot.  We stopped next to a construction sign for a nap/roadside savasana.  Richard and I used sandbags as pillows and Bob assumed the classic yoga pose for deep meditation.  Really, this kind of Frontier Rando Camp is the kind of thing I wish someone would take a picture of someday.

The final push...
The last day of riding on a 600k is a bittersweet thing.  First, you are really tired and want to be done.  Second, if the weather is nice, you are wishing it doesn't end.  However, by this time, all the mistakes you made early come back in triple to haunt you.  The other thing that starts to haunt is your backside.  For this, Bob had several options, being a well-prepared randonneur.  Here we started the "little dab will do you" with a tupperware of Lantisceptic.  If you haven't used Lantisceptic, it's well known in circles not only for its ability to curb bed sores, but saddles sores too.  A real jewel of a product, yours at most pharmacies (though you have to ask the pharmacist for it).

At Zumbrota, both of us were having some stomach issues.  Probably a case of the digestive track saying, "gee, why do you insist on eating all this junk food".  I've got my routine down to chocolate milk, sandwiches, cashews, cookies and the occaisional V8.  Food is usually the last thing people work out.  By this time, it was 7:30am and the sun was warming things up.  We were finally able to strip away the jackets.  The wind had conveniently shifted to the west for our westerly jaunt to Faribault.  Richard took off outside town.

The next 37 miles were a real pleasure.  We lost the sun due to an approaching front, but the tail wind kept our speeds up in the 16-18 mph range.  The few fast riders who slept at the Windswept Inn passed us and one even slowed down to say hello.  He had a really cool bike too by Vincent Dominiguez, a local frame builder and fellow rando.

By the time, we hit Faribaut at about 10:30, rain was threatening and several others were at the control putting on rain gear.  They had seen Richard ahead of them, but failed to find him at the control, so he was thought to be lost.  The others took off and we slowed slightly waiting for him but eventually gave up.  The rain started in earnest just as we left the control.  As rains go, this one was so minor as to be almost not worth having rain gear.  We put it on, but got wetter from sweat.  The band was short and after about an hour, the roads were once again dry.  At this point, we turned north to Lonsdale and the wind conveniently shifted to the south (thank you weather gods).

We pulled into Lonsdale shortly after 1:00 pm and made the appropriate phone calls to our rides.  Only 28 miles to the end.  I put away some more gear and had a Starbucks Double Shot (good caffeine boost with some B vitamins for energy).  No sign of anyone.

The last 28 miles were very pleasent and fast, except for the nasty pavement on 280th street.  This section is in desparate need of repaving.  I'd call my congressman, but our govt is about to shutdown so it might be pointless.  I pulled a giant piece of metal out of my tire, which did not puncture.  Ever since switching to Specialized Armadillos, I find myself surviving for longer and longer without flats.

Pillsbury, Dodd, and Holyoke Roads are all freshly paved and mainly downhill so we flew to the end at about 18-20 mph, good recovery for the legs.  We rolled in a 3:45 for a grand total of 33:45.  My fastest 600k ever and Bob's second fastest.  After last week's debacle, Bob is finally PBP qualified.  Cheers all around!  At least the clerk in the AmericInn was impressed.

A few others were at Old Chicago doing some stumbling, my estrogen advantage allows me to easily resist drinking beer when I am already in a compromised state.

IronK was late getting me having forgotten her phone.  Bob's girlfriend, Melissa, had a pizza waiting which I was really thankful for.  Melissa is the supreme rando-spouse; she does all the driving and happily does neutral support when needed.

This was my second 600k in 1 week and considering the fact that the previous week's oven had netted a 40% DNF rate, the fact that I finished it and had my strongest 600k on this ride give me lots of confidence for PBP.  I'm debating trying the Hawkeye 100k in mid-July.   But the big thing now is to build fitness and strength.  The hard part has just begun.
Three Amigos in Iowa - plus skunks
The Easy Bake 600k